Welcome to the webbed and wired edition of R&R, aristotle. We’ll be doing the same sort of song and dance here as we do in print: reviewing the latest comics and cartoon-related books and ranting about trends and abuses and unfathomable foolishnesses. Each installment will stay here for about four weeks, with a new one coming in just about every other week or so. If you don’t have the time to ponder every punctuation mark in this deathless prose and merely want to see what might be there that would interest you, we suggest you scroll down the page looking for the bold-face type that heralds the notables who reside herein this week. So here we go with Opus 362 (and a reprise of Opus 361):
Opus 362 (January 21, 2017). The plan, this month, was to finish and post this opus before the Inauguration. But, alas, as so oft happens here at Rancid Raves, our plan went, in Robert Burns’ phrase, agley. And so here we are scrambling to get into the digital ether on the weekend immediately after the Inauguration. The self-imposed delay matters not a whit, of course —except that now, after the Inauguration took place, we feel obliged to say something about it. And so we will, later on, down the scroll under the heading “The Vandals Have Arrived.” Here, we’ll react but briefly.
The biggest news of the day is that the TrumpTwit changed his hair-do. He’s added what appears to be a part on the left side. This is a mistake. It reveals the essential comb-over character of the “do.” Sad.
Veteran newsman Dan Rather, still wearing the mantle he inherited from Walter Cronkite as a trust-worthy journalist, reported his feelings after hearing the TrumpTwit’s speech:
“Of the nearly 20 inaugurations I can remember, there has never been one that felt like today. Not even close. Never mind the question of the small size of the crowds [Obama’s estimated at 1.8 million; Trump’s, 700,000-900,000], or the boycott by dozens of lawmakers, or even the protest marches slated for tomorrow across the country [and taking place in D.C. even as Trump was speaking; over 200 arrested]. Those are plays upon the stage. What is truly unprecedented in my mind is the sheer magnitude of quickening heartbeats in millions of Americans, a majority of our country if the polls are to be believed, that face today buffeted within and without by the simmering ache of dread. I have never seen my country on an inauguration day so divided, so anxious, so fearful, so uncertain of its course.”
We quote Rather’s remarks in full later on. For now, let us leave these grim reactions for the nonce and contemplate the happier events this opus celebrates.
We review more than a dozen books (including the return of Bloom County via Facebook and the last Peanuts reprint from Fantagraphics plus the New Yorker Cartoons of 2016) and examine the reactions of scores of editoonists to the Trump transition and inauguration. We also report on Lynda Carter’s defense of Wonder Woman and the reason that DC has cancelled the second part of The Legend of Wonder Woman, and we briefly review Archie’s new title, Reggie and Me, and re-visit Christmas in the funnies and watch Will Eisner’s Spirit join Dick Tracy. And more—much more.
It’s a yuuuge posting, kimo sabe, so we recommend that you peruse the detailed list of the contents below and choose what you want to dwell on, leaving the rest for another day (or never). To that purpose, then, here’s what’s here, in order, by department—:
Plastic Jesus (a poem)
NOUS R US
Comics & Graphic Novels Selling Well
Protest Comic Book for Women’s March
Charlie Hebdo Soft on Islamic Hooliganism?
More Watchmen to Watch
Lynda Carter Defends Wonder Woman
Thin-skinned DC Cancels Legend of Wonder Woman
Obama’s Farewell Address
Odds & Addenda
Deadpool Nominated for Best Screenplay
“Fun Home” a “gem”
Lucky Luke Gives Up—?
Brooke McEldowney Interview
Coloring Books Fade
New Superman Costume
THE VANDALS HAVE ARRIVED
Dan Rather’s Response
STREEP AND TWITTER TRUMPET
Streep’s Speech in Full
FUNNYBOOK FAN FARE
Reggie and Me
Editooning in the Age of Trumpery
Editoonists’ Preferences for Presidential Satire Target
Raw Thoughts About the Trumpet
Some of the Best Editoons of the Last 60 Days
THE FROTH ESTATE
Growth of Relationship between the News Media and the Right
NEWSPAPER COMICS PAGE VIGIL
Christmas and Other Shenanigans in the Funnies
Will Eisner’s Spirit Joins Dick Tracy
XMAS SHOPPING LIST
Short Reviews of—:
Complete Peanuts: Comics & Stories
Ditko Monsters: Konga
Bloom County on Face Book
Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, No.46
Love Is Love (Benefit Anthology for Orlando)
Longer Reviews of—:
New Yorker Cartoons of 2016 (Generously Sampled)
The Comic Art of War: A Critical Study
Walt Kelly’s Pogo: The Complete Dell Comics, Volume Four
Panel to Screen: Comic Books and Film
The Meaning of Superhero Comic Books
LONG FORM PAGINATED CARTOON STRIPS
(Er, “graphic novels”)
Thoreau: A Sublime Life
ONWARD, THE SPREADING PUNDITRY
More Political Commentary by Yr Reporter
Mad’s Don “Duck” Edwing
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
If Not of A Lifetime
“Goddamn it, you’ve got to be kind.”—Kurt Vonnegut
Our Motto: It takes all kinds. Live and let live.
Wear glasses if you need ’em.
But it’s hard to live by this axiom in the Age of Tea Baggers,
so we’ve added another motto:.
Seven days without comics makes one weak.
(You can’t have too many mottos.)
And our customary reminder: when you get to the $ubscriber/Associate Section (perusal of which is restricted to paid subscribers), don’t forget to activate the “Bathroom Button” by clicking on the “print friendly version” so you can print off a copy of just this installment for reading later, at your leisure while enthroned. Without further adieu, then, here we go—:
I don't care if
Ridin' on the
With my plastic
When I'm in a
plastic doesn't hear
The man who
And if I weave
around at night
'Cause plastic Jesus shelters me
For his head
comes off you see
Whoa Whoa Whoa
Songwriters: Ed Rush, George Cromarty
After hearing the first verse, I couldn’t resist. Now let’s get serious—:
NOUS R US
Some of All the News That Gives Us Fits
COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS DO WELL IN 2016
Last year, reports Michael Cavna, the only area within adult fiction that increased in sales over 2015 was graphic novels. He quotes Publishers Weekly, which, citing Nielsen BookScan numbers, asserts: “The lone bright spot in fiction was comics and graphic novels, which had a 12% increase on the year.”
Fiction overall was nearly flat last year, dipping by 1 percent. There were “no breakout bestsellers” in adult fiction, PW reports, and almost “all fiction subcategories closed out the year lower than in 2015.” Yet amid this nearly across-the-board decline on the fiction side, comics were too popular to be denied.
PROTEST COMIC BOOK FOR THE WOMEN’S MARCH
In the wake of the Trump triumph (to be termed Trumph hereafter), more than a few disgruntled and alarmed artists and cartoonists have created a radical feminist comic book of illustrations that focus “on the theme of political resistance to the forces of intolerance.” Entitled RESIST!, the comic book is a result of a collaboration between the art director of The New Yorker, Françoise Mouly, her daughter Nadja Spiegelman, and Gabe Fowler, the publisher of a quarterly comic book anthology called Smoke Signal, who offered a special free 40-page edition of his tabloid paper to be released at the time of the Inauguration and a “women’s march,” scheduled for January 21, the day after the Trumpet takes office.
When Mouly heard that the TrumpTwit had been elected president, she says, “I was in a state of shock.” The cover image she’d been planning for the week’s issue of The New Yorker — which played on the theme of the first woman president — had to be scrapped. Instead, for the magazine’s November 11 issue, she chose an image of a brick wall stacked almost to the top of the page [see Opus 361]. And then, like so many Americans trying to adjust to their new reality, she had to figure out what to do next. At this point, her daughter got involved.
“There was a need to be making something rather than sitting around feeling helpless,” Spiegelman told NY Mag, quoted by Toni Airaksinen at redalertpolitics.com. “And this felt like a way of giving voice to something that needed to exist.”
Just after Thanksgiving, Spiegelman and Mouly posted a call for submissions on Facebook, and within hours, thousands responded. At first, most of the contributions came from men, but by December 10, Mouly told Betsy Gomez at CBLDF, there were more women than men: “We were getting many comics by women on the topic of resisting the force of fascism.”
Among their messages: “Build a Wall Around Trump” by Julie Wilson, an artist living in Santa Monica, “We Shall Overcomb Trump” by artist Kristina Lee, and “We Are Going to Mars, the World is Too Scary for Us” by Ozge Samanci, a professor at Northwestern University. Some of the contributors are well-known cartoonists—Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, Emil Ferris—but “we have work by people who aren’t professional cartoonists,” Spiegelman said. “RESIST! revives the tradition of using comics for protest,” she added. Samples of the tabloid’s contents are posted on the other side of the $ubscribers Wall.
The tabloid features the work of over 120 artists, Mouly told Gomez—“somewhere around a hundred women, and also a section in the back, the ‘man cave,’ and inbetween a page called ‘Gender Is Not Binary.’
“Surprisingly,” she added, “nobody sent us anything that was in praise of Donald Trump.” [Not so surprising, considering the nature of the call.—RCH]
Mouly said she and her daughter undertook the task at first just to address their own need to do something. But they soon achieved other objectives: they realized there was an absolute force “out there.”
“We want them to be as aware as we are of the positive or the constructive force,” Mouly told Gomez. “It’s not an attack on Donald Trump. It’s a celebration of everything that we have in common, of not just women, but men also and people for whom gender is fluid. ... Everyone who feels that they lost something on November 8th—they should be able to find something here that is at least as sustaining as what was taken away that day.”
Added Spiegelman: “One thing that was so moving when going through the submissions was the sense—because we were sorting them by gender—we began to get such a sense of what a female voice is as distinct from a male voice. ... when you see that the empathy, funniness, vulgarity, the women drawing uteruses but also drawing their mothers and daughters and grandmothers, and drawing women linked arm in arm and drawing how they felt the day after and drawing emotions and also their anger—that sense of the collective female voice is something that is so powerful. ... I think that—I hope that people just can hear that. That’s what I hope.”
Over 55,000 of the tabloid have been printed, and they’re being distributed on pallets of 5,000 to regional distributors for dissemination throughout the country, especially during sympathetic “women’s marches” held in other cities. While the March was not initially planned to be an anti-Trump protest, after the results of the election, it seems the event has taken a little bit of a turn. Anti-Trump protesters are planning on attending, and Planned Parenthood has since become an official partner of the event.
The print run is woefully short of meeting what may be presumed to be the demand. The “women’s march” reportedly took place in nearly 700 cities in the U.S. and worldwide, “a roaring rejoinder to the inauguration of Trump, an unprecedented international rebuke of the new president,” said the Washington Post article. And in all of those sites I’ve heard about, the number of participants exceeded expectations. In Denver, where 40,000 were expected, an estimated 100,000 showed up.
In Washington, porta-potties weren’t up to the job. After they were rendered useless, people were given cups and told to use them in a box truck that had been designated for privacy.
“I was afraid to shake anyone’s hand,” said one woman, laughing.
HAS CHARLIE GONE SOFT ON ISLAMIC HOOLIGANISM?
One of Charlie Hebdo’s most outspoken journalists quit the satirical magazine at the end of December because, she says, it has gone soft on Islamist extremism. AFP reports that “Zineb El Rhazoui accused the weekly of bowing to Islamist extremists and no longer daring to draw the Prophet Muhammad.” Said she in a damning interview with AFP: “Charlie Hebdo died on January 7” 2015, the day the gunmen attacked the magazine, killing 12 people.
She said she felt Charlie Hebdo now follows the editorial line the extremists had demanded “before the attack — that Muhammad is no longer depicted.”
El Rhazoui, 35, who is followed everywhere by police bodyguards and is known as the most protected woman in France, also questioned the magazine’s “capacity to carry the torch of irreverence and absolute liberty.”
MORE WATCHMEN TO WATCH?
DC Comics just can’t let well enough alone. After one mediocre attempt to expand the Watchmen universe by producing a “prequel” series about what Alan Moore’s superheroes did before the publication of the initial Watchmen, DC is apparently poised to try another approach to milking Moore’s seminal creation for all it’s worth. Apparently, saith Abraham Riesman at vulture.com, in this new incarnation, the Watchmen will cross-over to meet the superheroes of DC’s universe—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman et al.
It’s a project that could go very, very wrong, Riesman said. “Notice the lack of a ‘the’ in Moore’s title as it’s the key to understanding the potential disaster the story might turn out to be.”
At first glance, Riesman goes on, we may suppose that Moore’s book is about a team of superheroes called “the Watchmen.” But that team never shows up.
“There is no group by that name,” Riesman says. “The noun, as it turns out, is referring to Juvenal’s immortal question, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes,’ one translation of which is, ‘Who watches the watchmen?’
“It’s a clever and disarming misdirect: instead of denoting the costumed crusaders in the novel, the title is critiquing them for their narcissistic decision to act as humanity’s unaccountable guardians — and critiquing us for our dreams about letting them do so. That’s sorta the whole point of Watchmen. Three decades after it debuted, it remains the gold standard for deconstructionist superhero stories, subverting the perverted power fantasies and harmful delusions of grandeur that we indulge in when we create or consume superhero fiction.”
DC is likely to miss that point, Riesman speculates, “treating the pointedly pathetic protagonists of Watchmen as just another super-team. In fact, it seems almost inevitable.”
And it will undercut and destroy the whole idea of Moore’s Watchmen, Riesman continues: “Moore ... [made] an epic that was free of the moralism and heroism of the mainstream DC universe. In the ecosystem of conventional superhero stories, the good guys always win, the bad guys always lose, and the moral gray areas are never thatgray. That kind of approach is antithetical to the themes of Watchmen, in which the good guys are fuck-ups, sadists, and/or sociopaths whose personal failings wind up making them the bad guys. What’s more, their world mostly follows the laws and logic of our own, with only one character possessing actual superpowers — a fact that makes him horrifyingly pivotal in the fate of humanity.”
So what will happen when the “earnest do-gooders” of the DC universe meet “the tragic idiots? There are only two possibilities that I can imagine,” Riesman writes. “One is an extremely metatextual satire that finds humor in the eye-rolling notion of such an encounter. But that’s about as likely as Batman adding a tutu to his costume. Much more probable is a story that crassly capitalizes on 30 years of enthusiasm for and familiarity with Watchmen’s characters by throwing them into a serious, high-octane adventure alongside the kinds of figures they were designed to mock. The idea is perverse in its misguided, more-is-more shallowness.”
Riesman says he “struggles” to imagine “what anyone could do to make a worthwhile and respectful Watchmen tie-in. We should withhold critical judgment until the pudding is made, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope.”
Riesman mentions DC’s recently launched Rebirth in which “creators were told to tweak the venerable mainstream-superhero pantheon so the characters could be their best selves.” It’s possible, I suppose, that “the” Watchmen could serve as a thematic foil, contrasting failed or flawed superheroism with successful “best selves” superheroism in the Rebirthed DC universe. Such a maneuver would give the Watchmen a serious (if not satirical) function. It would also perpetuate Moore’s theme.
That, however, is not likely to happen. DC is almost certainly simply using the fame of Moore’s Watchmen to hype sales of its titles, a sad but capitalistically sound tradition.
LYNDA CARTER DEFENDS WONDER WOMAN
As we reported last time (Opus 361), after just two months, Wonder Woman lost her gig at the United Nations as a symbol of self-empowerment for girls and women. Too many observers thought she was more pin-up than feminist icon and therefore not a suitable symbol at the U.N. Alex Williams reported at nytimes.com that “a United Nations spokesman said the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar” that ensued when Wonder Woman was first announced as an ambassador for women and girls and for gender equality
But “one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman,” came to the Amazon’s defense.
Now 65, Carter took time from acting (including a role as the U.S. President on “Supergirl” and a governor in the coming film “Super Troopers 2”) and career as a singer (she just competed a four-city tour and is recording her third studio album) to discuss the complex legacy of her Amazon princess alter ego. In an edited and condensed interview with Williams, Carter recognized at the onset the disagreement about what a feminist icon should look like:
“What I find interesting is that they didn’t look at the larger picture. I agree that the issue of gender equality is much larger than any character is, and I understand that a comic book character should not be representative of something that is that important. I agree with that. What I disagree with is this [mistaken] idea about Wonder Woman. She’s an iconic defender. She’s archetypal. It’s the ultimate sexist thing to say that’s all you can see, when you think about Wonder Woman, all you can think about is a sex object.”
About Wonder Woman’s skimpy costume, Carter was a little belligerent:
“Yeah, so?” she said. “Superman had a skintight outfit that showed every little ripple, didn’t he? Doesn’t he have a great big bulge in his crotch? Hello! So why don’t they complain about that? And who says Wonder Woman is ‘white’? I’m half-Mexican. Gal Gadot is Israeli. The character is an Amazonian princess, not ‘American.’ They’re trying to put her in a box, and she’s not in a box.”
(Er, I don’t see the super bulge that Carter sees at Superman’s crotch. Could she be imagining things? Things she wishes for?)
About her own stint in the star-spangled scanties: “If you think of the ’70s, that was miniskirts and bikinis. I never really thought of Wonder Woman as a super-racy character. She wasn’t out there being predatory. She was saying: ‘You have a problem with a strong woman? I am who I am, get over it.’ I never played her as mousy. I played her being for women, not against men. For fair play and fair pay.”
Why did “Wonder Woman” on tv “strike a chord with girls watching the show”?
“There was this idea that inside every woman is a secret self. It’s much less about the color of your skin, much less about your height or weight or beauty, but it’s the attitude, the strength of character, the fight for rights— the beauty within, the wisdom within.”
Carter attributes her post-Wonder Woman struggles with alcohol to her bad marriage not post-fame blues. Drinking brought solace at the time, she said, “but now it’s coming up on 20 years since I’ve been sober.”
Asked about her inspiration for the presidential role she assumed in “Supergirl,” Carter said: “It was Hillary. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 35 years. She is the kindest, most wonderful human being. She has an infectious personality and smile and warmth and personality and true nature. She grew up in a time where you had a be a certain way to be taken seriously. Now you can be whoever you want. You don’t have to be serious. You can be feminine and powerful at the same time.”
MORE TROUBLE FOR WONDER WOMAN
Institutionally, turns out that DC Comics has a thin skin and a feudal attitude. The company cancelled its critically acclaimed, Eisner-nominated comic book series The Legend of Wonder Woman because its creators made critical remarks on social media about other creative teams on DC books. A spokesperson for DC said the series, which had been slated for a second part, was ended because of “a challenging relationship” with the husband and wife creative team, artist Ray Dillon and writer Renae De Liz, who had created nine issues of The Legend, telling the story of the Amazonian from her origins on the planet Themyscira to arriving on Earth to become a superhero. A digital-first series, a collected edition was released in hardback on 13 December.
Sian Cain at the Guardian reported that the DC spokesperson said “we loved the book and we were very excited to work on the collected volume,” but DC was concerned about Dillon’s public comments on social media about other teams at DC.
Wrote Cain: “In a series of now-deleted tweets, preserved online on Bleeding Cool, Dillon criticised the writing in another DC series, Wonder Woman: Earth One, and complained when DC approved future volumes of Earth One while he was waiting to hear about the future of his own series. On hearing the news that Kevin Grevioux had been confirmed to write a series about the Amazonians, titled The Odyssey of the Amazons, Dillon alleged that he and De Liz had already pitched a similar idea to DC but had never heard back about it. De Liz also complained, tweeting that while she was happy the series would happen, she “felt I could have added a lot as a female creator.”
“It is an unfortunate situation. We tried hard to make it work,” the DC spokesperson said. [Probably not very hard.—RCH.]
Dillon told Cain: “I wish no negativity on anyone, and support DC and the people who work there 100%. I’m just looking forward to getting through the hurdle of sudden loss of finances during a crucial time and moving forward to an exciting, productive new year.”
The “crucial time” referred to De Liz’s fourth pregnancy, which is apparently threatened.
Dillon said that he and his wife were now focusing on their creation, the superhero Lady Powerpunch.
DC has historically been sensitive to public criticism from their creators, Cain said. “In 2009, Justice League of America writer Dwayne McDuffie was fired after making comments on a DC Comics discussion board about his frustrations with the project, while Fairest writer Chris Roberson was told specifically that he had lost his role on the DC title for ‘one tweet which questioned the ethics of the company.’”
When the cancellation was announced on Thursday, December 15, De Liz took to Twitter to say she was “surprised and devastated” the series had been cancelled. She also revealed that she is pregnant with her fourth child, tweeting that the announcement had fallen at a difficult time of year, just before Christmas. “I am very grateful to DC for the opportunity to work with such an iconic character over the last few years, that was a joy like none other.”
Rich Johnston at bleedingcool.com reports De Liz’s Facebook posting (in italics)—: To Read That, to See What Lucky Luke Has Given Up, to View a Selection of Vicious Editorial Cartoons about the Trump Transition and Inauguration, to Read Reviews of More than a Dozen New Books (Including Bloom County’s Return and the New Yorker Cartoons of 2016), and Much Too Much of Harv’s Spew about the Trumptwit and More, of Course, Much More— Click Here And If You're Not a $ubscriber/associate—
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